Randall the Handle's Week 7 NFL picks

Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson will have to outduel Aaron Rogers and the Packers on Sunday. The Packers are 3.5 favourites. Frederick Breedo / Getty Images

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Packers (4-1) at Texans (1-5)
When elite quarterbacks are laying a short price following a loss, we’re happy to get behind that. It is especially true when facing an inferior defence. Houston is among the league’s weaker defensive units and that should allow Aaron Rodgers to rack up plenty of points after his team was held to just 10 last week against a stellar Tampa bunch. Not only will the Texans have to contend with Rodgers’ arm, a 32nd ranked run defence will have the daunting task of slowing talented RB Aaron Jones. We saw Derrick Henry rumble through Houston’s run defence like it was turnstiles. The Texans are currently allowing 30.5 points and 423 yards per game, both alarming numbers. QB Deshaun Watson is a top guy at his position but he is void of a run game and he’s been sacked 19 times already this season. Houston has failed to cover all four times as a dog this season, each time taking back more points than offered here.

Seahawks (5-0) at Cardinals (4-2)
Russell Wilson has been outstanding this season, leading the league in several offensive categories. With DK Metcalf emerging as a star wideout, the Seahawks are dangerous. However, the potent offence can only cover up a dismal and 32nd-ranked defence for so long. This could be the day the bubble bursts. Seattle has lived a charmed life. Seattle has preserved some close wins when New England ended its game on the Seattle one-yard line. Dallas threw a pick in the dying seconds. The Dolphins went up and down the field on the Seachickens but kept imploding near the end zone while the Vikings found impossible ways to hand the Seahawks a late win. Seahawks enjoy a scheduling benefit having had two weeks to prepare while the Cardinals are on a short week after winning on Monday. Still, teams prepare for division foes and Arizona has done well against this adversary, having covered five of six with one push in past seven. Arizona’s defence is an unheralded group and the best one that Seattle will have seen so far.

Bears (5-1) at Rams (4-2)
Upon glancing at opening pointspreads, we thought this one was a misprint. Why are the Bears being slighted? Better yet, why are the Rams receiving such respect? As they say, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. The Rams haven’t proven much so far. Their only wins have come against lame teams from the NFC East. Outside of that wretched division, Los Angeles is 0-2. The Rams beat the Cowboys on opening week but only scored 20 points on defensively inept Dallas. Since then, the ’Boys have surrendered a minimum of 34 points to all other opponents, including the Giants. We saw L.A. struggle last week with a San Fran team had just been defeated by a pair of eight-point underdogs. Jared Goff has faced these Bears twice in the past two seasons, throwing for less than 200 yards in each game without a touchdown while tossing five interceptions. This Chicago defence is stronger than previous two. Offensively, the Bears are better with Nick Foles as he acclimates more each week. Bears can win this straight up.


Cowboys (2-4) at Football Team (1-5)
Big battle for supremacy in the NFC East. Chuckle, chuckle. Unlike Dallas, expectations weren’t high for Washington. Dallas has since lost its starting quarterback and now a limited Andy Dalton is playing behind an offensive line that is in shambles. Both starting tackles are gone for the year while star G Zack Martin is in concussion protocol and could miss. Dalton is a turnover machine at the best of times. Without protection, there is no telling what may happen against Washington’s adept pass rushers. Defensively, the Cowpokes are in worse shape. A flimsy stop unit has allowed all but one opponent to score 34 or more points including Monday’s debacle when dropping a 38-10 home decision to the Cardinals. Worth noting, demoralized teams losing by 17 or more on Monday night are 35-55 versus spread in next game.

Browns (4-2) at Bengals (1-4-1)
Would have loved to have put this one in our BEST BETS category if not for the reported player/coach discord in Cincinnati. Several veterans are dissatisfied with Zac Taylor’s approach and guys like A.J. Green, Carlos Dunlap, the usually docile Geno Atkins and Joe Mixon have voiced displeasure. If we can set that aside, the Bengals should do battle here. QB Joe Burrow played well in just his second pro start against the Browns back in Week Two. That was on a short week but the rookie still managed 316 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in the 35-30 setback. Cleveland is licking its wounds after being pounded by the Steelers last week. Can’t see this immature bunch getting up for this contest, especially with QB Baker Mayfield nursing sore ribs. Revenge-minded host should cover.

Lions (2-3) at Falcons (1-5)
Seeing how both of these clubs have blown exorbitant leads on multiple occasions this season, perhaps each should try to allow the other to score first. There figures to be some scoring here even though the Atlanta defence drastically improved last week when holding the Vikings to a reasonable 23 points, paving the way for the Falcons’ first win. A new coach definitely sparked this deflated club. Can it carry over here? It very well could but let’s see if there is a letdown after that initial win. It doesn’t help that Atlanta has a divisional road contest in four days following this one. Teams have a tendency to overlook their current game in anticipation of the Thursday tilt, especially when favoured. Lions have had a tough schedule. This is more their speed.

Bills (4-2) at Jets (0-6)
There simply is no persuasive argument for backing the Jets. While this pointspread is definitely puffed up, the oddsmaker had no choice as nobody in their right mind is placing their cash on this putrid New York team. All the linemaker could do was to set the price where bettors may be reluctant to take a position on the favourite. The Jets have poor players, a horrible coach, terrible management and zero chemistry. These Jets have managed to score just 10 points over their past two games including being shutout against the Dolphins last week. The Bills can ill afford to take this divisional doormat lightly as Buffalo is suddenly on a two-game skid after winning its first four games. However, it is hardly a disgrace to lose to the Titans and Chiefs, who are a combined 9-1 overall.

Panthers (3-3) at Saints (3-2)
Panthers have been a feel-good story after a down year was expected, fueled by a rookie coach, a new quarterback and some key personnel changes. Carolina started slowly with a couple of respectable losses before reeling off three straight wins. However, last week against the Bears, it was clear that some vital injuries have taken effect and there could be some stormy weather ahead. The loss of defensive linemen Kawann Short and Yetur Gross-Matos is significant. RB Christian McCaffery remains sidelined and while Mike Davis has done an admirable job in his absence, he too is hurting with an undisclosed injury. Conversely, the Saints have had a couple weeks for their wounded to mend, most notably stud WR Michael Thomas who is expected back. His presence makes Drew Brees considerably better and we expect the tandem to yield immediate results.

49ers (3-3) at Patriots (2-3)
If only Cam Newton’s play was as vibrant as his wardrobe. Maybe some of Newton’s shortcomings can be attributed to a weak supporting cast. In a group that includes Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Damiere Byrd, Jakobi Meyers, and Gunner Olszewski, only Edelman is recognizable. And the diminutive receiver is playing hurt. Add tight-end Ryan Izzo and this substandard receiving corps has caught just three touchdowns passes on the year. That’s simply won’t cut it in today’s NFL. Patriots were unable to score any touchdowns last week in an 18-12 defeat to offensively challenged Broncos. No one is sure what to make of the Niners after they recently dropped a pair as a prohibitive favourite in each before rebounding with a strong effort last week in win over the Rams. Perhaps the return of Jimmy Garoppolo helped, who gets to face his old mates. The visitor seems like the safer play.

Chiefs (5-1) at Broncos (2-3)
Wagering against the Chiefs is difficult. QB Patrick Mahomes scares the bejeebers out of those that bet against him. If you dare even watch the game when fading the Chiefs, it seems like Kansas City never punts. But when this many points are dangled to a home team, in a divisional matchup and offered on a short week, the prudent play has to be this underdog. It helps that KC is hurting and could be missing some key guys up front, including key OL Mitchell Schwartz. We concede that Denver cannot keep up offensively. What they can do is play some defence and hope to hold Mahomes and mates to a reasonable count, enough to allow a cover here. At least QB Drew Lock gives them a glimmer of hope as he returns for his second start since being injured a few weeks ago.

Bucs (4-2) at Raiders (3-2)
A lesson was learned last week when the Patriots were unprepared for their game with the Broncos after Covid-19 protocols prevented normal practice and preparation. This unrelenting virus may have found its way to the Raiders locker room. Las Vegas sent all five starting offensive linemen home this week after RT Trent Brown tested positive. Brown will likely miss this contest while we await word on others. Even under normal circumstances, this would be a tough assignment. Last week’s dominant win over the Packers could have been Tampa’s coming out party. Tom Brady finally had his full complement of offensive stars to work with while the defence was lights out when holding Aaron Rodgers to ridiculously low stats and forcing turnovers. Las Vegas’ situation doesn’t bode well against a Bucs’ defence that ranks first overall in both total yards allowed and rushing yards allowed while having the second most sacks.

Steelers (5-0) at Titans (5-0)
Pittsburgh opened as a slight favourite in this write-in game between two of the league’s three remaining unbeaten teams. The marketplace disagreed with the belief that the Steelers should be road favourites here and money went Tennessee’s way, making them the small choice now. We’re going to go with the oddsmakers on this one. While the Titans are undefeated, they are allowing far too many passing yards and an abundance of rushing yards. Few teams have the balance that the Steelers have. Offensively, Ben Roethlisberger can take advantage of Tennessee’s deficiencies while it remains to be seen if this host can solve Pittsburgh’s 2nd ranked defence. Mike Tomlin’s club has covered four of its five games while being favoured in each. The opportunity to need the Steelers to just win against what we believe to be an inferior squad is one worth seizing.

Jaguars (1-5) at Chargers (1-4)
Just how bad are the Jaguars? A 1-4 Chargers team with a rookie quarterback laying more than a touchdown should answer that question. If it wasn’t for the Jets, there would be a lot more attention to the ineptitude of this Jacksonville team. An atrocious defence is allowing 414 yards per game while Jacksonville’s previous five opponents have all score 30+ points. That Minshew Mania thing has worn off. This is a team that continues to be in peril. If the Jaguars feel that an easier assignment awaits, they may want to think again. While the Bolts only have one win, novice QB Justin Herbert has been surprisingly good in his pro debut. LA’s previous two games were both defeats but losing by a touchdown at Tampa and a field goal at New Orleans when scoring 31 and 27 points respectively is nothing to be ashamed of. Rested Bolts should be ready for this task.